Heather Bone was 39 when she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. She had little symptoms apart from a swollen hand which slowly grew up her arm. Finally she was diagnosed and as it is an aggressive cancer, chemo started quickly, followed by a mastectomy and she was cleared of cancer 6 months later. Sadly a few months later, Heather was suffering from bad headaches and went for more tests and discovered the cancer had spread to her brain and that no more treatment was possible. Sadly Heather only has a few months left to live and will leave behind her husband Dan and her two young sons Lewis and Marcus. She remains super positive and plans on living her last months to the full.
WHAT IS INFLAMMATORY BREAST CANCER?
Inflammatory breast cancer cells grow along tiny channels (lymph vessels) in the skin of the breast. These cells block the lymph vessels. These vessels are part of the lymphatic system. They drain fluid from tissues, collecting and filtering out bacteria and any waste materials from the body’s cells.
Inflammatory breast cancer is rare. It is called inflammatory breast cancer because the breast becomes inflamed and swollen. This is because the body is reacting to the cancer cells in the lymph vessels.
Unlike other breast cancers, you may not feel a lump.
SYMPTOMS OF INFLAMMATORY BREAST CANCER
Symptoms often develop quite suddenly. The breast may become:
Other symptoms may include:
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are similar to an infection of the breast (mastitis).
If your GP thinks that you could have mastitis, they may give you antibiotics to see if symptoms improve. Mastitis is uncommon in women who are not pregnant or breast feeding. It is also rare in women who have been through the menopause.
Antibiotics for mastitis normally improve symptoms quickly. If this does not happen, your GP will refer you to a specialist breast cancer doctor.
HOW IS INFLAMMATORY BREAST CANCER TREATED?
How is inflammatory breast cancer treated?
Inflammatory breast cancer is generally treated first with systemic chemotherapy to help shrink the tumor, then with surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation therapy. This approach to treatment is called a multimodal approach. Studies have found that women with inflammatory breast cancer who are treated with a multimodal approach have better responses to therapy and longer survival. Treatments used in a multimodal approach may include those described below.
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